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Too many secrets: Three ways Apple could loosen up

Abbi Perets | March 6, 2013
Apple's famous for keeping secrets, but there are some cases where its closed-mouth nature may not be doing it any favors.

According to Inside Apple author Adam Lashinsky, many Apple employees end up working a vacuum; he's described the "lockdown rooms" where those developers toil. The problem is that when employees can't see the whole picture, they can't always make good decisions. (For example, might Maps's launch have gone smoother if more Apple employees, spouses, and close friends could have provided a lot more real-world, pre-launch testing?)

Don Melton, who headed the original Safari project at Apple, wrote on his blog that "we operated the project like some CIA black op--with loyalty oaths and all." He recalls that "the whole damn project was a secret," and notes how difficult that secrecy made it for him to hire the original Safari development team, "since I couldn't tell them what they were working on until they took the job."

That's ... well, it's a little weird. It's not like we're actually talking about matters of national security here. An Internet browser--a tool many people use to look at videos of dancing cats--is not what makes America a superpower, so why act like it does? The fact that Melton even has to point out that his team wasn't actually under "physical lockdown like Jony Ive's design group was then, or like the iPhone team would be years later" is, frankly, a bit terrifying from a human resources perspective. How many people--who haven't actually been trained to be secret agents--can live and work in a top-secret atmosphere like that for a sustained period of time?

The thing is, cross-innovation could very well help Apple. Remember back in 2011 when iCloud was first released? It worked beautifully with iOS. With Lion? Yeah, not so much. If the iOS and OS X development teams had merged back then, we might have been a step ahead of where we are now. And that would be ... well, gosh, that would look to be a good thing, at least from where I'm sitting. I like it when my iPhone and my MacBook Air play nicely together.

It's always darkest in the black market

When you walk into Target and they're out of whatever you came for, the staff can generally tell you when the item will be back in stock. They might even be able to locate you one nearby and have it shipped to your store for free.

When you walk into an Apple store and ask for an in-demand item that's out of stock, don't expect a lot of information. Sure, the store can put in an order for more iPhones, but according to one former employee, that location might not get what it requested, since corporate determines where units are most needed.


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